10/26/2021 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on October 26, 2021, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev in Nagorno-Karabakh (Armenian: Artsakh). Turkey supported Azerbaijan’s invasion of Artsakh in Fall 2020, where the two conducted genocide against Artsakh’s Armenian-Christian majority.
President Erdoğan’s visit to Artsakh came just days after he threatened to expel 10 Western ambassadors whose countries had called for the release of Osman Kavala, a jailed Turkish philanthropist who dedicated his life to the recognition of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Turkey actively suppresses all information pertaining to the 1915 Genocide, allowing the authorities to build upon those genocidal policies that removed Christianity from the country.
Victims of the 2020 invasion into Artsakh have often commented that Turkey sought to finish what was started in 1915. A report submitted by the Armenian Bar Association to the United Nations stated, “(Turkey) —Azerbaijan’s ethnic and linguistic “brother nation” and close military ally, which directly assisted Azerbaijan in its Nagorno-Karabakh war. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan used the Turkish term “kılıç artığı,” which means “leftovers of the sword,” in reference to the survivors of the Christian massacres that mainly targeted Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians in the Ottoman Empire and its successor state, Turkey.”
The brutality of the Turkish-Azeri invasion into Artsakh was well-documented by several independent organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. This brutality was supported by Turkish paid Syrian mercenaries, many of whom once belonged to ISIS and had previously committed genocide against the region’s Christians. The invasion was celebrated by a victory parade in Baku, which was attended by President Erdoğan, and the opening of a trophy park which included the helmets of killed Armenians as well as mannequins showing them in degrading circumstances (months later, after much international outcry, both the helmets and mannequins were reportedly removed from the park).
The invasion of Artsakh is reminiscent of a 2013-2015 statement made by Anadolu Kulture, a non-profit of which Osman Kavala sits as Chairman of the Board. The statement read, “Confronting the past is not a predicament that befell Turkey; it is an issue on the world’s agenda, a universal cause. This is why looking at comparative international case studies from around the world will contribute to transforming the culture of forgetting in Turkey and acknowledging that a remembering culture that would restore a sense of justice is a part of the civilization process. In this respect confronting the past and apology is also about what kind of a society we want to live in and the kind of shared future we want to build.”
Turkey, who is a NATO ally of the United States, was recommended this year by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom for inclusion on the State Department’s Special Watch List regarding religious freedom. Human rights conditions have worsened in Turkey over the past several years, but an escalation of religious freedom violations have particularly occurred since the 2016 coup attempt. Turkey has exported these violations throughout the region, often in ways that facilitate the elimination of local religious minority groups.
Claire Evans, ICC’s Regional Manager, said, “One only needs look at the Kavala case and Turkey’s actions in Artsakh to see that Turkey’s ruling government wishes to suppress all historical recognition of the 1915 genocide so that they can continue this genocide in the modern era. President Erdoğan demonstrated Turkey’s strength by successfully invading Artsakh; now he is flexing Turkey’s strength by making threats of western diplomatic expulsion just days before visiting the territory he helped conquer. His messaging is a clear promotion of genocide and an attempt to bully the world’s protestations into silence.”